Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

A Cold Beer and Hot Shower on Wish List Rough Ride for a Rocky Yachtsman; Steve Cunningham Talks Exclusively to the Morning Bulletin from Bass Strait, On-Board the Clipper 70 Class Leading Da Nang on Its Way to the Finish Line in the 71st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

A Cold Beer and Hot Shower on Wish List Rough Ride for a Rocky Yachtsman; Steve Cunningham Talks Exclusively to the Morning Bulletin from Bass Strait, On-Board the Clipper 70 Class Leading Da Nang on Its Way to the Finish Line in the 71st Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Article excerpt

Byline: Matti Brooks matthew.brooks@capnews.com.au

IT HAS been one hell of a ride down the east coast of Australia for Rockhampton's Steve Cunningham, on-board the Clipper 70 yacht Da Nang in this year's 71st Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

So wild that strong winds and heavy seas had seen a quarter of the fleet retire by yesterday afternoon, 32 boats in total, including eight-time line honours winner and this year's favourite, Wild Oats XI.

This makes the 2015 edition of the Sydney Hobart bluewater classic the toughest race in a decade. You have to go back to 2004 for a higher attrition rate.

But Cunningham, in his first Sydney Hobart, and the crew aboard Da Nang, skippered by the only Clipper 70 female captain Wendy Tuck, have battled bravely against the elements to be in a very strong position last night.

As the American super maxi, Comanche, approached the finish line on the Derwent River near Constitution Dock in Hobart at 9pm last night, Da Nang was leading the Clipper 70 fleet in Bass Strait, as it had done since the start on Sydney Harbour.

The boat was in 21st position for line honours and was placed 20th on handicap overall.

When The Bulletin caught up with Cunningham last night, the crew were catching their breath in an unusually flat paddock (Bass Strait), after a frantic start battling strong winds and big seas.

"It is very quiet, it is quite calm with a very light breeze," Cunningham described conditions in Bass Strait.

"It is a welcome relief. We had a few go down with sea sickness in the big seas. But they are a lot brighter now and managing to keep some food down.

"We are hoping the breeze will pick up overnight and help us charge on to the finish. I think we are a day and a half away."

Cunningham said the Sydney Hobart had been a remarkable journey, even before the race began.

"It has been an amazing experience," Cunningham said.

"All the preparation, working on the boat and getting it ready. And then the start.

"That was awe inspiring. There were tens of thousands of people on the water, on the beaches, on the headlands watching the start of the race.

"Sydney Harbour is a natural amphitheatre and to be part of the race this time, as a competitor and not just a spectator, well that was an amazing feeling."

But it hasn't been all plain sailing for the man who is completing four legs of the eight which make up the Clipper Round the World yacht race.

"It has been very tough," Cunningham said.

"Very tough physically and mentally. It is a real challenge at times to get out of your bunk, put on all your wet weather gear and jump back on deck."

Cunningham, 55, was born in Rockhampton, educated at Christian Brothers College and his family still reside here. And it was here that he was bitten by the sailing bug. …

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